Health & Fitness for Busy Students:
How I Balance Sports and Academics
(by Maya Omer - Grade 12)
The Importance of Healthy Habits
Good nutritional choices and healthy exercise habits are both key to good health and wellness. Eating well can positively impact one’s ability to exercise. They each affect our physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning. Students who exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet achieve optimal conditions for learning and reduce the risk of disease. This also boosts energy levels, increases concentration, reduces depression and anxiety, and helps students foster a sense of wellbeing.
Food — Cafeterias are created with convenience in mind. They, along with vending machines, are designed to quickly dispense food. Many school cafeterias produce large quantities of affordable food items prepared in bulk, which are often loaded with sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats. I am glad to say that at ISC-Lahore, they have implemented a healthy and balanced menu for students. I hope to see it developed even more to meet the needs of student athletes.
Getting enough sleep — If you don’t get enough sleep, you can’t perform in sports or academics. Sleep deprivation leads to impairment in concentration, memory, critical thinking, and creativity with long-term harmful effects to our health. It is recommended that high school students sleep for 8.5 hours.
Finding time to exercise — Most of us don't have the luxury of extra time to devote to working out, and we must juggle our priorities to make room for exercise. A huge contributing factor to a sedentary lifestyle is the world of technology.
As a national swimmer and a high achiever in my school, I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to new limits. After eight long years of swimming, I earned the position of Captain of the Girls Army National Swimming Team. At the age of 13, I became the first Pakistani girl to compete in the 1500-meter freestyle race in Sri Lanka and won the bronze medal for Pakistan. I have always tried to use my time productively and efficiently. It sounds simple, but it is harder in practice. I have learnt that time management is key when balancing academics and swimming.
I became the Head Prefect this year as I have been actively involved in the SLO activities over the years. I have earned my way to these honorable positions through hard work, commitment, and dedication. For some reason, I cannot seem to accept any reason to stop reaching what I have aimed for. All roads have their own difficulties, but without the thorns, you can’t be a rose either.
I had to manage to keep a balance between my academic performance and my competitive swimming journey. To do this, I would have to wake up at 4:45 a.m. every day for my swimming practice sessions, which would last for two hours in the morning, and another two hours in the evening. In addition, I regularly attended a gym session at night, reaching home around 9:30 p.m. Even my summers are not wasted sleeping or watching movies. I make sure to enroll in summer swimming camps abroad. I have been attending the Maximum Performances swimming camp in the U.K. for the past 6 years, run by double Olympian Edward Sinclair himself. I have also attended the swimming camps at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Tips I would give students to try and sneak in a workout into their routine:
- Start your day with exercise. Exercising for 30 minutes in the morning increases your energy throughout the day.
- Commute on foot or by bike whenever possible.
- Choose to take the stairs over the elevator.
- Do simple balance exercises while waiting in line or brushing your teeth.
- Turn your study breaks into exercise breaks. Get moving by taking a walk outside or doing jumping jacks or pushups.
- Exercise while watching TV. You can do crunches, squats, or leg lifts while following your favorite show, and do aerobic exercises like jumping jacks or jumping rope during the commercials.
- Have a workout buddy so you can motivate each other.
- Download a fitness app on your phone to keep track of your progress and daily calorie count. This could help motivate you to up your game even more!
Exercising stimulates various brain chemicals that help you feel happier, more relaxed, and less anxious. As you get more and more fit, you will want to stay fit. This will inspire you to find more time and ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.